Undergraduate Teaching

Part IIA project guide

Part IIA project guide

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During the second half of the Easter term, all Part IIA students undertake 2 projects out of a total of around 30.  These do not have to be within your engineering area, but some have pre-requisite modules and will assume a certain level of background knowledge. A wide spread of projects is available: details are provided in the project descriptions.

There are two main categories of project, “Group” and “Standard”, and you must take at least one Group project.  Group-based projects will involve working in groups of at least 3, with a significant degree of inter-dependence and shared effort. Some Standard projects will also involve working in pairs and pooling results.

Most projects are also classified as Design, Field or Language, and you must take at least one Design project.  Projects are in timetable sets, and there are various other constraints on allowable combinations.

Project codes (e.g. GA1, SB1) indicate Group (G) or Standard (S), and the associated subject area (A-G, as for IIA modules, plus L for languages). Each project has a project leader, but groups of projects also have a coordinator that you are welcome to contact to discuss any general matters throughout your project.  You can also contact the Teaching Office, or the overall project coordinator, Dr HR Shercliff.

Project codes Coordinator
GA, GC, SA, SC Dr R Miller
GB, GF, SB, SF Dr S Hofmann
GD, SD Mr A Johnson
GG, SG, SL Dr AJ White


Key dates

Projects run over a 4-week period after the Part IIA examinations, so that undergraduates have no other scheduled activities. Important dates and deadlines are:

Project descriptions available for browsing Monday 12 January (Lent, week 0)
Start of input of student preferences Monday 26 January (Lent, week 2)
Language projects information session - in the Language Unit Tuesday 27 January, 1-2pm  
Deadline for input of student preferences Friday 30 January (Lent week 3)
First list of allocations Monday 16 February (Lent, week 5)
Final list of allocations Friday 6 March (Lent, week 8)
Project period begins (Language projects: Wednesday 7 May) Thursday 7 May (Easter, week 3)
Each project will have interim reports or presentations. Deadlines for these vary - see the project descriptions for details   (Easter, weeks 3-6)
Hand-in dates for final report: Constructionarium project (provisional) Tuesday 9 June (Easter, week 7)
Latest hand-in dates for final reports: all other projects Thursday 4 / Friday 5 June (Easter, week 7)

Some project leaders may set earlier final report deadlines.  Final project reports must be handed in by 4pm on the relevant days. Students should aim to submit ahead of the deadline, and ensure that they allow for significant congestion on DPO printers.

NB:  final reports will not be accepted after the deadlines, unless there has been agreement in advance for a short extension, due to illness or other grave cause.  Project leaders are required to complete all marking by Wednesday 10 June.  Note that all interim reports must be resubmitted, appended to your final report.

How to choose a project

Students interested in taking a Language project should attend an information session on Tuesday 28 January from 1-2pm in the Language Unit.

Between Monday 27 January and Friday 31 January, you should enter on-line your preference, in order, for exactly five projects, satisfying the following rules:

  • Your 1st and 2nd preferences must include at least one Group project, and one Design project (many are both). Your preferences overall must include at least 3 Group and at least 3 Design projects.
  • Projects are in sets (P1, P2 etc) with each set having a fixed timetable; projects must be taken from different sets.  Certain combinations of sets are excluded for timetable reasons.
  • Many projects have pre-requisites (e.g. essential IIA modules): it is your responsibility to check the project descriptions, and only to select projects for which you have taken the pre-requisites.  Your module history is NOT checked automatically by the project allocation programme.
  • Project GD1 (Constructionarium) may only be combined with GD2 (Structural Modelling) or with one of SL1-5 (European languages). Constructionarium and its associated project may only be selected as first and second preferences. Places on Constructionarium can only be guaranteed for students in the Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Area.
  • You may include Project GD5 (Engineering Geology and Surveying) only if you are in the Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Area. Project GD6 (Surveying) is only open to students in other Engineering Areas.
  • Apart from these restrictions, projects may be chosen from any subject area, regardless of your Engineering Area.

How projects are allocated

Each project has a maximum capacity, due to limits on staff, space and equipment. Some projects may not run if very few students opt for it.

Before making your selection, you should study the timetable, noting the project sets, and the combinations of sets that are not permitted.  In the on-line selection page, the sets are colour-coded to guide you. Before you can submit your preferences, the software will:

  1. check that your 1st and 2nd preferences form a valid combination;
  2. tell you how many of the combinations of your 1st to 4th preferences are valid (at least 2 must work to give yourself a fair chance of obtaining your 1st to 4th preferences).

You will be prompted to reconsider if either of these checks fails.

The computer programme allocates a “score” of 1 to your 1st preference, 2 to your 2nd and so on. The allocation algorithm makes the average total score per student as close to 3 as possible. In recent years most students have been allocated at least one of their first 2 preference projects, and very rarely a 5th choice – but you should still consider all five of your choices seriously, as you may be assigned to any of them.

The Teaching Office will post a first list of project allocations online and in the Baker building foyer by Monday 16 February for students to check the outcome. Any queries should be referred to Mary Wilby in the Teaching Office as soon as possible afterward. You must contact the Teaching Office promptly after the first allocation list is posted if you wish to change, giving a reason for the request. The Teaching Office will endeavour to arrange alternative projects with you, but there is no guarantee that this can be achieved as many projects are over-subscribed, and Group projects must run with multiples of a specified group size.

A final list will be published (in the same places) by Friday 6 March. Changes after this date are only permitted in exceptional circumstances.  (Exceptional does not include you being inefficient or indecisive).

Timetable constraints

Projects are in sets (P1, P2 etc) with each set having a fixed timetable; projects must be taken from different sets. Certain combinations of sets are excluded for timetable reasons.

Constructionarium project

Constructionarium (in combination with Structural Modelling or a European language) operate to their own timetable during the 4-week period. Constructionarium runs in project weeks 1-4, including a residential week on site in Norfolk (provisionally May 31 - June 6). The second project is concluded in weeks 1-3. These projects each have the same workload and credit as other projects.

Civil engineering design project GD4

This project includes a field visit on Friday of project week 1, thereby clashing with set P4 projects (to be confirmed).

Field projects (set P5)

Students must attend timetabled sessions all day on Mondays, and all afternoon on Wednesdays and Thursdays, thereby clashing with sets P1, P2 and some P8/9 (Language) projects. For field projects, the timetabled sessions add up to approximately 16 hours per week, and the time which a student is expected to work independently is correspondingly reduced.

Language projects (sets P8/9)

NB Arrangements for Language projects are under review - the information below is expected to change in 2014-15.

Language projects can be combined with most other projects, except the Field projects and Structural Modelling. The timetabled sessions consist of 4 fixed hours (on Wednesdays), plus a choice of supported self-study (SS) sessions, to avoid clashes with your other project.

NB.  Language projects will start with a 2 hour session on Wednesday May 6, one day ahead of the other projects.

A language teacher and an engineer will be available at these SS sessions. Language projects combined with Constructionarium are restricted to European languages, and will run on their own timetable:

  • SL1. French intermediate: Wednesdays 2-6 - plus SS on Monday or Thursday afternoons
  • SL2. French advanced: Wednesdays 9-1 - plus SS on Monday or Thursday afternoons
  • SL3. German intermediate: Wednesdays 2-6 - plus SS on Tuesday or Friday afternoons
  • SL4. German advanced: Wednesdays 9-1 - plus SS on Tuesday or Friday afternoons
  • SL5. Spanish: Wednesdays 9-1 - plus SS on Tuesday or Friday afternoons
  • SL6. Japanese: Wednesdays 9-1 - plus SS on Friday mornings
  • SL7. Chinese: Wednesdays 2-6 - plus SS on Monday or Tuesday mornings

If you are interested in taking a foreign language project, you are encouraged to attend an information session on Tuesday 27 January from 1-2pm in the Language Unit, where all the language project leaders will be on hand to answer any questions you may have.

Project timetables for Easter Term

Time Slots Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
P2 (GA1, GB2, SA1, SB3, SC3)
Field P5 (GD5, GD6)
Lang (SS option A) (SL7)
P3 (GA4, GC2,GD4, GF1, GF2, SC2)
Lang (SS option B) (SL7)
Lang P8/9(Fixed) (SL2, SL4, SL5, SL6)
P1 (GA2, GB1, GC1, SF2, SG1)
P4 (GA3, GG1, SB1, SC1, SF1)
Lang (SS option A) (SL6)
P1 (GA2, GB1, GC1, SF2, SG1)
Field P5 (GD5, GD6)
Lang (SS option A) (SL7)
P4 (GA3, GG1, SB1, SC1, SF1)
Lang (SS option B) (SL7)
Lang P8/9(Fixed) (SL2, SL4, SL5, SL6)
P2 (GA1, GB2, SA1, SB3, SC3)
P3 (GA4, GC2,GD4, GF1, GF2, SC2)
Lang (SS option B) (SL6)
P2 (GA1, GB2, SA1, SB3, SC3)
Field P5 (GD5, GD6)
Lang (SS option A) (SL1, SL2)
P3 (GA4, GC2,GD4, GF1, GF2, SC2)
Lang (SS option A) (SL3, SL4, SL5)
Field P5 (GD5, GD6)
Lang P8/9(Fixed) (SL1, SL3, SL7)
P1 (GA2, GB1, GC1, SF2, SG1)
Field P5 (GD5, GD6)
Lang (SS option B) (SL1, SL2)
P4 (GA3, GG1, SB1, SC1, SF1)
Lang (SS option B) (SL3, SL4, SL5)



Each project has a project leader who is responsible for its organisation, running and assessment. Any queries about a project should be addressed to the project leader in the first instance.

At the first session, the project leader will issue a lab notebook and any handouts needed for the project.

Availability of computers and other equipment may be restricted at times outside your scheduled sessions, so you should allocate your unscheduled time flexibly between your two projects. Chief technicians can advise you on the hours of access to their laboratories.

During the fixed timetabled sessions

  1. Students can expect priority access to laboratories, equipment and computers allocated to that project.
  2. Students can expect to have access to supervision from the project leader and/or other demonstrators.
  3. Project leaders can expect to have access to all of the students on their project.

Project loading

During the project period, approximately 8 hours per project per week are timetabled as fixed sessions when demonstrators will be available to give introductory talks, supervisions and feedback sessions.  Most projects have two 2-hour morning periods plus one longer afternoon period timetabled per week.

You are expected to be available for all fixed sessions (unless prevented from doing so by illness or other grave cause).  At the first (compulsory) session, project leaders will provide a detailed schedule indicating when you must attend.  A record of attendance will be kept for these compulsory sessions, and penalties applied for absence.

It is expected that students will typically spend an additional 12 hours per project per week working on their own (including report writing).

Project reports

Lab notebooks

Project leaders will issue each student with a lab notebook for each project. These are to be used to record all day-to-day activities, as a sketch book for conceptual design work, to record calculations and experimental results etc, dating every entry. For some types of project, such as software projects, electronic records and documentation may be kept in parallel. Keeping a log book is essential best practice for any substantial project or research activity.  Project leaders may ask for notebooks to be produced at meetings or submitted with reports to check that the books are used correctly, with entries properly laid out and dated.

Format of reports

Most projects require 3 reports to be submitted, i.e. 2 interim reports and a final report. All interim reports must be appended to your final report when you hand it in. The maximum total length of all reports taken together (typed or handwritten on A4 pages) must not exceed 14 sides, plus calculations and drawings.  Students must adhere to the page limit, and keep the volume of appendices to a minimum.

The format of reports will vary from project to project, and the project leader will tell you what is required.  Some general guidelines for design projects are as follows:

Interim reports (2 sides each, excluding appendices)

  • Introduction: overview of project and aims
  • Project specification
  • Summary of preliminary design work
  • Conclusions and programme of future work
  • Appendices (include important sketches, drawings, computer listings, etc)

Final report (not greater than 10 sides of A4, excluding appendices)

Suggested section headings plus guide lengths are:

  • Introduction (1 side)
  • Summary of overall design decisions and outline of project management (1 side, possible team material)
  • Description of design/computer code (2-3 sides)
  • Problems encountered in development and their technical solutions (1 side)
  • Test procedure/software implementation (2 sides)
  • Conclusions and recommendations for improvements (1-2 sides)
  • Appendices (possible team material):
  • Important design details, including mechanical drawings, circuit diagrams, software code
  • Interim reports 1 and 2 (where applicable)

See the report writing guide for further guidance.

Report cover sheets

At the front of each report (interim and final), every student must include a signed cover sheet  (to be downloaded and printed from this link, as required). The sheet contains:

  • A declaration stating that the student is submitting his or her own work.  (Work which has not been done by the author must be identified clearly. It is recognised that there will be some common elements between the work of students in a pair or group, for example in drawings and diagrams.)
  • Space for markers to provide written feedback (but not marks) on your reports.
  • Space for you to indicate suggestions for improvements to the project.

The online survey should be completed at the end of the project period. 

Return of reports

Reports, drawings, etc. will be kept until after the Tripos results have been published.   The work of IIA project prizewinners will be retained until the Departmental Prize Day next year.  Winners will be contacted by email.  You will be notified of other arrangements for collecting project work.


For each project, there are 80 marks available.  In order to spread the workload for both students and staff, continuous assessment will take place for the duration of the project period, with a number of staged reports.  Some projects include individual or group presentations as part of the assessment.  Each project has its own mark distributions and submission dates, and these are stated in the online project descriptions.  A typical allocation is:

Report Length Marks Due
1st Interim report 2 sides 15 marks Thursday 14 May
2nd Interim report 2 sides 15 marks Thursday 21 May
Final report 10 sides 50 marks Thursday 4 June

The main criterion for assessment will be the quality of the project work done, and marks will typically be awarded as follows:

Standard Marks out of 80
Class I 56+ (70%+)
Class II.i 48+ (60%+)
Class II.ii 40+ (50%+)
Class III 32+ (40%+)
Below honours 0-31 (0-39%)


  • No report, no marks. Half marks will not be awarded.
  • For non-attendance at compulsory timetabled sessions, the penalty is 1 mark per hour or part hour missed.
  • For late submission of interim reports, the penalty is 3 marks per weekday.
  • No reports will be accepted after the submission date for the final report.
  • Feedback will be given on each report, but the marks will not be disclosed.
  • The marks for different projects may be moderated after the conclusion of the project to even out any significant differences in mark distributions.

Allowances for illness

Students are expected to complete as much as possible of the work associated with their two projects, but the four week timetable imposes tight constraints.  If there is any significant disruption to your project work (whether or not a report deadline is missed), you must notify your tutor, project leaders and the Director of Undergraduate Education by email immediately.  If the deadline for any report is missed, a Part IIA project allowance form must be submitted by the student’s tutor within three working days of the report deadline  (NB: this is not the standard form used for all other allowances.)

Following first notification of disruption of a project due to illness, weekly consultations involving the Director of Undergraduate Education, project leaders and director of studies will be required until the project is back on track. This is in order to determine reasonable extensions to deadlines, or to agree a reduced or alternative submission of project work if appropriate.

Extensions for interim reports may be made until the final project deadline. Extensions for final reports are limited to a maximum of four days, and only in exceptional circumstances, since the examiners must publish the final class lists two weeks after the submission date. An allowance of marks may be made only if a substantial part of the project work has been submitted, with the total mark being extrapolated in suitable proportion. Note that allowances are considered separately for each project, i.e. marks awarded for one project will not be used as a basis for awarding marks on the other project. Failure to submit any reports on a project will be treated in the same way as a missed examination: zero marks will be awarded and the case referred to the University's Applications Committee. The final deadline for receipt of allowance forms is Wednesday 10 June.

Last updated on 19/12/2013 16:28